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(Tech Web - CMP via COMTEX) -- In the eyes of record company execs, college students may be freewheeling miscreants--Napster devotees who refuse to pull their weight as trustworthy consumers. But the truth is quite different.

More than a third of college students who download music off the Internet free would be willing to pay $8.50 a month for the privilege, according to a survey of 1,800 students on campuses from Harvard to the University of Southern California.

The typical student is after singles, live tracks, international music, and new artists, the study found. They spend more time listening to tunes off their computers than they do the radio; half the students have been to a party where the DJ used a computer instead of a stereo.

Of course, besides superheated hormones and loads of leisure time, college students have two things most of the rest of us don't: access to fast Internet connections and high bandwidth. That makes downloading songs a lot easier.

"As broadband grows, more people will use computers for music and other entertainment," said Matthew Bender, analyst with Mercer Management Consulting, which conducted the study in conjunction with the National Association of Recording Merchandisers. "Movies and TV will either be streamed or downloaded. More multimedia things are just a step behind this."

For now, though, the music industry should take heart that the students are downloading a second set of songs to complement their CD collections, which are valued for their liner notes and cover art and are perceived to be of higher listening quality than the albums they download.

"We don't feel this is going to erase CD purchasing completely," Bender said. "This is a new opportunity. There's a whole other batch of music record labels could sell to people."

It's only a matter of months now before someone--either a record company, America Online Inc. (stock: AOL), or even Napster--introduces a subscription service, particularly in the light of Universal's decision to purchase Inc. (stock: EMUS), he said.

"Initially, [record companies] were behind, but they've caught up quickly," Bender said. "There's a lot of fear in the industry about this. One of the biggest surprises to some of the retailers is that people sample music on Napster and then go out and buy it."

(c) 2001 Tech Web

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